What do we do when we fail?

Homily Marlborough College Chapel 13th January 2019
The Baptism of Christ: Luke 3.15-17, 21-22

with the help of godIt’s the middle of January, the middle of mock exams for those sitting their GSCEs this year, and although we’ve been only back for a few days, it already feels much longer. So, I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only one whose long list of new-year’s resolution has dwindled down to a few remaining items. Being ahead a day’s worth of planning: off the list. Unbeaten season in sport fixtures: off the list. Being kind to everyone at all times: off the list. You get the point, so I won’t go on with the things I have failed at already.

It could well be that it is different for you. Maybe you have made it to the firsts in netball, the firsts in hockey, maybe you have aced those mock exams as you thought you would, but what if not? What if we have not managed to keep the commitment we made? Should we just give up? Try to focus on the few things that are still on our new-year’s list?

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Expect the unexpected

Sermon St Mary’s Marlborough, 30th December 2018
First Sunday of Christmas: 1 Samuel 2.18-20, 26 and Luke 2.41-52

Jesus in the templeTraditionally, well, at least since the 1970s, this first Sunday after Christmas is often celebrated as the Feast of the Holy Family. As we hear about Mary, Joseph and Jesus, we are invited to see them as a model for all Christian families, and, I suppose inevitable, reflect in how far we live up to that standard. I think whoever had the idea of placing this particular celebration just after Christmas, either did not have a family, or had a good sense of humour, or was one of those people who had the perfect family – a person I have yet to meet!

Of course, hopefully, over the past few days, most of us will have had the opportunity to spend time with family, or families in some way or other. Time with children, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, or with friends who have become like family. Time to celebrate, be together, and eat together – often a bit too much. But, no matter how much we have enjoyed our celebrations, I think we also realise that the perfect family – whatever that may look like – does not really exist. For many of us, this time will also remind us of the more painful moments in our lives, often connected with what has happened to those nearest to us, or between us and them.

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Christmas: An image of home

Sermon St Mary’s Marlborough, 24th December 2018, 11.30pm
Christmas Midnight Communion: Isaiah 9.2-7 & Luke 2.1-14

Earthrise
“Earthrise” taken by Apollo 8 on 24th December 1968

“In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered”. They are familiar words for many of us, and I guess that whenever we hear them, we think of Christmas. Just as when we hear the opening chords or “Silent Night”, smell the sweetness of mulled wine and Christmas pudding, or see a beautifully decorated Christmas tree through a window.

Apart from the things we have in common, we will also have our own rituals: things we say or do to mark the start of Christmas. It may be a particular meal for Christmas Eve, a film you watch year after year, or indeed, coming to Church tonight.

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Taking stock

Homily St Mary’s Marlborough, 23rd December 2018, 8am
Fourth Sunday of Advent: Micah 5.2-5a & Luke 1.39-55

annunciationWe have come to the fourth Sunday of Advent. As Christmas itself is approaching, the season of preparation is coming to an end. So, maybe today is an opportunity to take stock: what difference has Advent made for us this year? What have we noticed, and how has it changed us?

Over these last few weeks, we have been accompanied by readings from the Prophets, and our Gospel readings have been speaking about judgement, asking us the question how ready we are to receive it. In those readings, we have been told how God prepared people throughout the ages to welcome the Word made flesh. Through them, we have been invited too, to see ourselves as part of the continuing story. However, now as people who are not only expecting a Messiah, but as people who have encountered the risen Christ.

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Care more, worry less

Sermon St John the Baptist Mildenhall, 16th December 2018
Third Sunday of Advent: Philippians 4.4-7 & Luke 3.7-18

advent-wreath-3The readings set for this third Sunday of Advent seem to be not quite the same in their message. Whereas Paul tries to reassure the Christians in Philippi by saying “Do not worry about anything”, John the Baptist, on the other hand, seems to have completely the opposite message: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” So, what should we do? Worry, or not?

I think the answer is ‘both’, which makes this message particularly suited for this season of Advent. As we draw nearer to the 25th of December, many of us will have started worrying about the logistics of Christmas. Have we ordered the turkey? Have I got my presents? Am I still on time for posting my Christmas cards? And, what will the weather be like for those of us travelling? Indeed, lots to worry about.

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The gift we are

Homily Marlborough College Carol Services
December 2018

Christmas is only a couple more weeks away, or, for us here at the College, only a couple more days away. Today, we celebrate together, but later on, we each will celebrate in different ways. For some, it will be a large gathering with family and friends, whereas for others, just those closest to us. Some will travel to sunny or snowy places, whereas others will not travel any further than the Berkshire border.

Chapel

But, no matter where we go, or what we do, there is – I think – one thing we all have in common: in some way or other, we will all be involved in exchanging gifts: we will all be giving something, something of ourselves. For many, of course, this will be actual gifts, great or small. But it also may be giving of your time, or your skill: providing the music or cooking the turkey. Giving is so instinctive to us human beings that often we forget that we are doing it.

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The message, not the messenger

Homily St John the Baptist Mildenhall, 9th December 2018 
Second Sunday of Advent: Baruch 5.1-9 & Luke 3.1-6

ProphetThe  readings we hear on Sundays follow a three year cycle. Each year, one of the three synoptic Gospels has a main part to play. This Church year, which started last week on Advent Sunday, our main focus will be on Luke’s Gospel. As some of you may know, Luke is maybe most famous for his story-telling: it is through his narrative and through his characters that we start to understand who Jesus is, and who God is.

This morning’s reading starts by a very precise explanation of the time and circumstances of the preaching of John the Baptist. Maybe even more important than the historical accuracy is the theological reasons for mentioning these particular rules. In a way, it already foreshadows the last week of Jesus’ life and ministry, and his encounters with Pilate and Herod before he will be crucified.

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